Things have been busy so I'm a bit behind with book reviews. Thus, I'm just going to do two quick ones to catch up. The first is The Sign of Four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - a Sherlock Holmes mystery of course.
It's a couple of weeks since I read this and it's hard to remember the details. Basically, Holmes is bored and taking drugs when suddenly a Miss Morstan appears with a problem. Her father died under suspicious circumstances some years before and suddenly someone is sending her pearls and apologising for the way life has treated her. Why? Watson is smitten and Holmes investigates.
Wonderful, as always. The back story concerning warfare in India and skulduggery and deception with treasure is most fascinating. I love the scene where Holmes and Watson go in hot pursuit of the villain in a boat on the Thames. Great stuff and I'm all ready now to read my next Laurie R. King novel - The Moor.
The Mapp and Lucia stories by E.F. Benson seem to be beloved of various friends and bloggers so I thought I'd try them for myself. Queen Lucia is the first in the series.
The story is set in the sleepy village of Riseholme. Mrs. Lucas, known to all as 'Lucia' (pronounced in the Italian manner), is queen of the village and everyone follows her lead in all things artistic. We're introduced to various characters, Georgie, Lucia's effeminate second in command, The Quantocks, Mrs. Weston, Col. Boucher etc. It soon becomes apparent that though they all follow Lucia's lead there is in fact quite a bit of rivalry to be the first with a new fad or with news. And the latest thing is that Daisy Quantock has an Indian Guru living with her and her husband. Lucia is green with envy and furious that Daisy has done this without consulting her. Next thing we know there is a famous opera singer, Olga Bracely, staying in the village and Lucia is again the last to know. What's happening and how will Lucia cope with what appears to be a fall from grace?
E.F. Benson's writing is not new to me - I've read probably all of his superb ghost stories and think he was one of the best supernatural writers around in the first half of the 20th. century. I hadn't tried his Mapp and Lucia books though, not sure why, just wasn't the right time I think.
I have to say that all the people who love this book are quite justified in doing so. It's funny, beautifully observed and actually has quite lot to say about the nature of friendship. We all know someone like Lucia, although maybe not quite as extreme, and I think that's why it all felt so *real* to me. Benson must have been a brilliant observer of people, but he's never cruel, it's all done tongue-in-cheek and with a great deal of humour. Wonderful. I was hoping to find the next book, Miss Mapp, in Waterstones this morning but no such luck. Amazon here I come...